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Transportation Japan

Toyota Demos A Flying Car. It Crashes. (ap.org) 107

thomst shares the AP's report on Toyota's latest venture. From the article: A startup backed by the Japanese automaker has developed a test model that engineers hope will eventually develop into a tiny car with a driver who'll be able to light the Olympic torch in the 2020 Tokyo games. For now, however, the project is a concoction of aluminum framing and eight propellers that barely gets off the ground and crashes after several seconds... At a test flight Saturday in the city where the automaker is based, the gadgetry, about the size of a car and loaded with batteries and sensors, blew up a lot of sand and made a lot of noise. It managed to get up as high as eye level for several seconds before tilting and falling to the ground... After several attempts, the endeavor had to be canceled after one of the covers got detached from the frame and broke, damaging the propellers.
Project leader Tsubasa Nakamura envisions seamlessly transitioning from driving to flight like the DeLorean in Back To The Future, and his team still plans to perform their first manned flights by 2019.
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Toyota Demos A Flying Car. It Crashes.

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    link?
    • link?

      link! [youtube.com]

  • I guess we need self-flying cars more than we need self-driving ones then.

    • They sound like they don't know what they are doing. I have actually worked on drones prototypes, and here are the first two things I learned:

      1. You keep them tethered until you get the bugs worked out.
      2. You don't test them where they can "blow up a lot of sand"

      • Looking at pictures of the thing, it looks more like a engineering test jig than a prototype of anything. Probably some PR guy invited some press guys in to watch while the engineers were running the motors up a few times and making some measurements on some subsystems. I doubt they ever intended for it to get more than a meter or so off the ground.

        They seem to have a fair amount of faith in their work, or they wouldn't be standing anywhere near it when the rotors are spinning. In my experience Japanese

      • Now they've learned that, too.
  • Like AI and autonomous cars, flying cars are right around the corner. And since I had a C64 in my youth, and now my computer today is 10000x faster, computers in the future will be even more powerful than today. After all: progress is inevitable.
    • flying cars are right around the corner

      Yeah, but is it the vertical corner, like with normal cars, or the horizontal (roof) corner?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Progress is enivetable.

      The dark ages calls your bluff.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      If you want to know why self-driving cars are a LONG way off, just got to the self-checkout counter at your nearest major retailer. Notice the human sitting near the self-checkouts? Watch how many times said human has to come running to override a confused checkout computer that freaks out if someone does something as simple as prematurely move an item out of the bagging area. And keep in mind that this is the dirt-simple task of simply checking out a customer who is doing almost all the work themselves alr

      • If modern computers can't even manage to do something that simple, consistently without constant human intervention, do you really think they're anywhere near ready to handle the 1000x more complicated task of driving a car through poorly-marked city and rural streets without a human there to keep them from potentially causing major carnage?

        There's a big difference in approach to these problems. The first is a simple rule based system, the second is a neural net system, which is much better at capturing complicated patterns.

        • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

          second is a neural net system, which is much better at capturing complicated patterns.

          Again with the science fiction. If it was real and functional it would be put to use everywhere.

          Kids these days making shit up to justify their altruism to an a cool idea.

      • Watch how many times said human has to come running to override a confused checkout computer

        Agree, but I thought their PRIMARY purpose was to make sure you actually scanned all of your items and not accidentally "miss" a few of the more expensive ones.

        Conversely, I consider any product without a marked or tagged price to be free, and complain when they ask me to pay for it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you want to know why self-driving cars are a LONG way off, just got to the self-checkout counter at your nearest major retailer.

        Did you just equate the sensor, hardware computing, and software algorithm sophistication of a modern self-driving car to a supermarket self-checkout counter? I think you just did. By that logic, there's no way we could have put someone on the moon in 1969 because Jimmy's Pontiac was in the shop every month.

      • Computers can do everything you program them for ...
        Perhaps you meant if modern software/programs can not do X ...

    • Problem with flying cars is not of technical sort, you can make a car fly no problemo, or more accurately you can make an aircraft that can drive on roads. It's just silly to do so.
    • The problem with the flying car is that it needs to generate a lot of downward force, they're really noise / windy and there's no way around. They're a crap idea. Sure, you could make them, but you could also shoot a nailgun into your eye, that doesn't mean you should.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Saturday June 03, 2017 @12:42PM (#54542467)

    Think about all the idiots on the road you see every day. Now think about how much more damage they could do in a super powerful aircraft bearing down at you from 200 feet in the air.

    • What if you combine the idea of flying cars with self-driving cars? I think that could work as long as the driver has no direct manual control.
      • We'll also have to figure out a better energy source for them as they require a lot more to fight gravity than a normal car. We're just at the cusp of getting our cars off of fossil fuels and it would be terrible to have to go back to them for flying cars just because batteries don't yet have the storage density.

        Then there's the noise. Can you imagine being downtown with tens or hundreds a short distance away? Some company (or city) will open up an area for people to land/take off or else what's the point

      • Why do people keep bringing up self-driving cars? Unless self-driving cars combined with flying cars produce anti-gravity, electrical or mechanical failures still create falling death machines. It's not suddenly less dangerous from falling because it's self-driving, just removes user mistakes.
        • by Macdude ( 23507 )

          Since user mistakes would be something like 98% of the mistakes and a parachute can deal with the 2% of cases left -- what was your problem again?

          • My problem is that I don't have one of those tiny umbrellas Wile E. Coyote uses to protect himself from large falling objects.

  • I'm having difficulty seeing what the trouble is. There's a whole bunch of existing drone technology -- sensors, controllers -- that they could leverage. Is it Not Invented Here syndrome, and are they trying to start from scratch? Or is there some issue with scaling the technology up to the size of a car? We already have drone platforms that can be ridden and controlled by a human.

    • Yeah that's what I'm thinking, Not Invented Here. There's already a tiny S. Korean group and a Chinese firm and god knows how many American companies/hobbyists who have successfully built manned quadcopters that have no problem taking off and hovering.

      Toyota must have used fresh-out-of-college engineers with zero hands-on experience and zero hobby background who did nothing but study books. Or a bunch of old about-to-retire automotive engineers who stopped being productive for the company due to senility.

    • In the real world you have things like efficiency, flight time, payload capacity, range, safety etc. Nothing is more inefficient then trying to make something hover in the air. This is why without some future battery revolution, any kind of electric flight will be limited to toys and niches. It is also why weight always by far is the biggest factor in how long a drone can stay up in the air, and why using hover drones for any kind of delivery will never be the best alternative except for in some very speci
      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday June 03, 2017 @02:11PM (#54542757) Homepage

        I have always through that these delivery companies investing into drone tech should be considering artillery style delivery. We have so much experience with delivering "things" with pin point accuracy. And parachutes, are extremely energy cheap, while catapults, trebuchets, and electromagnetic cannons are extremely efficient. A cannon built up the side of a skyscraper should be able to accelerate packages to tremendous speeds, then you just need a few parachutes and some remote controlled fins to nudge the package into alignment and you should be able to deliver packages to any rooftop or backyard in the entire city in seconds.

        • A trebuchet could easily launch 90 kilograms worth of groceries over a distance of 300 meters.

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday June 03, 2017 @03:33PM (#54543019) Homepage Journal

          A cannon built up the side of a skyscraper should be able to accelerate packages to tremendous speeds, then you just need a few parachutes and some remote controlled fins to nudge the package into alignment and you should be able to deliver packages to any rooftop or backyard in the entire city in seconds.

          And when the chute fails to open, and you deliver the package to the wrong rooftop or backyard or face?

        • I'm quite certain you may be only half serious with this but I'll make a comment anyway.

          I worked at a place that made the electronics for some of these "things" you imply. The forces on the "things" when fired from a cannon is immense. Getting electronics to survive this is not trivial. Getting something like a pizza to survive this delivery method would also not be trivial. I do like that you've given this some thought.

          What some people have proposed since the early days of flight is having a kind of pa

          • Even just 2G (doubling the weight, a pizza should be able to stand that no problem) would give you a muzzle velocity of about 60m/s at the top of a high skyscraper. Probably not enough to deliver something to an entire city, but it could deliver lunch to an entire downtown, and most objects could take far higher Gs. If you were delivering food, it would need to be in the right container, but soup, salad, a sandwich, should be able to handle 3-4G for the sandwich and salad, and infinite for the soup. And clo

        • by judoguy ( 534886 )
          Yes! Please God, let someone set this up somewhere!!

          I desperately want to see one these things trying to deliver stuff.

          • Yes! Please God, let someone set this up somewhere!!

            I desperately want to see one these things trying to deliver stuff.

            To someone else...

      • This is why without some future battery revolution, any kind of electric flight will be limited to toys and niches.
        I suggest to google around a bit and watch some youtube videos to get a clue how many electricity/battery powered air planes we already have.
        Many of them fly since decades, literally.

      • Well, except that, they weren't trying to demonstrate a practical ready-for-consumer flying car, they were just trying to make a roughly car size object hover for the cameras. I submit that many engineering students could do at least that using off-the-shelf parts. Test by: They have. Check out that youtube video of a guy flying around a few feet above the surface of a lake on a battery powered platform. Not ready for consumers, maybe, but at least a proof of concept.

        So I guess my next question is, are

  • It's "A startup backed by the Japanese automaker" (From the first line of the f**king summary). The same way Morgan Stanley is maintaining a short-message based social network (Morgan Stanley is a backer of Twitter).
    • by thomst ( 1640045 )

      OP here.

      FYI, the original AP story - to which I linked - is headlined "Toyota demonstrates flying car." I quoted that headline, even though I knew it was inaccurate, because I also knew that, as RAH noted, "Some cooks like to pee in the soup to make it taste better." Sure enough, "EditorDavid" changed it to what you see above.

      To be fair, it did actually crash - from an altitude of about 5 feet.

      You are factually incorrect with regards to Morgan Stanley "backing" Twitter. See the Funding section [wikipedia.org] of Wikipedia'

    • That, and it's a "test flight", not a demo... Whoever originally wrote that headline should take their "talent" to the Daily Mail or Breitbart or some other place where people like to be trolled with inaccurate and suggestive headlines/content.
  • Looking at the specs they claim a flight altitude of 10 meters. This is quite likely within the range of ground effect meaning it cannot attain "flight" as many would understand it. This may also be merely a way to get around a lot of rules from the FAA and similar government agencies around the world and not have to go through the more rigorous testing required for a powered aircraft.

    This vehicle should not be that difficult to design. We've been making quad-copters for a long time now and so a lot of t

  • "It's a falling machine. I'm so impressed."

  • Love the units used for the specs on that site [cartivator.com]. Discussing a car like it's a PC component.

    Length 2,900mm
    Width 1,300mm
    Height 1,100mm

    We can't just say "2.9 m length, 1.3 m width...". e__e

  • Not a good idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Saturday June 03, 2017 @03:35PM (#54543031)

    I love flying. The public loves the idea of flying cars. But flying cars are not a particularly good idea. They are energy intensive, far more than rolling cars. In addition to be wasteful of energy they're also noisy, dangerous and not particularly practical.

    In the movies we all love, or hate, the flying cars are held up by wires or arms so they seem to be silently gliding along. Real flying cars have to do a lot of work to fight gravity and stay up. This ends up being noisy because they're wind effect machines. They're not silently surfing gravity or mysterious force fields. They're pushing air down hard enough to stay up. It is really not sexy and certainly not silent.

    A lot of drivers are unable to navigate in 2D on the ground. Adding another dimension up in the air makes it that much harder for your typical Joe Blowshotair to drive. Expect a lot more accidents.

    What gets more exciting is those accidents are going to be up above your head.

    If you thought people flying camera drones over your house was bad, or ATVs & snowmobiles, then just wait until you have to deal with loud, dangerous, invasive flying cars zipping over your back yard and home.

    Flying cars are a really bad idea.

    • To those people that ask why they don't have a flying car yet in $current_year here is your answer:

      They are energy intensive, far more than rolling cars.

      I've talked to a few pilots and they tell me that light aircraft will burn common gasoline (the kind without ethanol mixed in) and at a rate nearly equivalent to a common pickup truck, if done in a rough miles to the gallon per person kind of computation. Of course a common pickup truck can carry more than a ton of cargo and the kind of plane being discussed here can carry maybe a passenger or three and some

      • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

        The automation will help. I trust an AI more than most humans to do the driving - not now but in the future. Unfortunately until we have anti-gravity or something like that the energy issue remains. Unless you like gliding. I do.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Pilots do fine in the air in 3D space. The simple fix is to dispel the notion that every idiot incapable of tying their own shoes deserves a license.
  • Toss it the closet with the Moller Sky Car
  • Call me Mr. Positive Thinking and assume someone will use a flying car to do a drive-by. Do they get away with it?
  • Yet another group is placing a bunch of motor/propellor units on an "airframe" and calling it a flying car. Bad design. Very bad. The loss of any one of those powerplant/propeller combinations means the thing now "flies" just slightly better than a grand piano. Jeezuz, even a helicopter gives it's pilot at least a shot at a good landing (defined as one you can walk away from) in an engine-out scenario. This design has been a horrible idea since Moller came up with it, what, fifty years ago?

In the future, you're going to get computers as prizes in breakfast cereals. You'll throw them out because your house will be littered with them.

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